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UK plans to cut tariffs on U.S. agricultural imports: FT

(Reuters) - The United Kingdom is planning to cut tariffs on U.S. agricultural imports to advance progress on a free trade agreement, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Corn is harvested from a field on Hodgen Farm in Roachdale, Indiana, U.S. October 29, 2019. Picture taken October 29, 2019. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

The Department for International Trade was considering a "big concession package" to negotiators from the United States over the coming months to cut the cost of certain agricultural imports, the FT reported, citing government officials.

The package has been led by UK trade minister Liz Truss, but is facing internal opposition from Environment Secretary George Eustice who has raised concerns that such a step could undercut UK farmers, the report added.

Concerns about such tariff cuts have also been raised by officials at the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs, according to the report.

Asked about the report, a spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We have been clear that any future deal with the U.S. must work for the whole of the UK including our farmers, consumers and companies.”

“Without exception, imports into the UK will meet our stringent food safety standards.”

Last week, the United States and Britain launched formal negotiations on a free trade agreement, vowing to work quickly to seal a deal that could counter the massive drag of the coronavirus pandemic on trade flows and the two allies’ economies.

The talks, to be conducted virtually, will involve over 300 U.S. and UK staff and officials in nearly 30 negotiating groups.

Agriculture was expected to be among the thorniest issues in the talks, given strong British opposition to U.S. genetically modified crops and antibacterial treatments for poultry.

Trade in goods between the United States and United Kingdom was valued at $127.1 billion in 2018, with the two sides roughly in balance, while the services trade topped $134.8 billion.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Kim Coghill and Stephen Addison